Even though I have been outspoken in my articles and on ParaNexus Universe Radio, I am not a paranormal debunker or a paranormal negativist (and no, I don’t play one on TV). I am a serious anomalous researcher who has observed a growing number of websites and media stories featuring photos and videos of so-called paranormal phenomena that is dubious at best, and fabricated at worst. I am perplexed at the sheer number of paranormal hobbyists who post misidentified natural phenomena as paranormal in nature, and worse yet, who promote fear in others—especially their clients—and end up doing more harm than good.
Whether we like it or not, Internet sites such as YouTube can exert a powerful force in shaping public opinion regarding paranormal phenomena, and serious researchers have a responsibility to mitigate erroneous beliefs in the interests of public service and human development. Furthermore, any individual who would become an anomalous researcher has a duty of honor to fulfill; he or she assumes a debt of responsibility to the field and, yes, to humanity, to approach his or her research with honesty, integrity, high standards, and open mindedness devoid of preconceived notions or beliefs. Researchers must continually expand their knowledge, their minds, and most importantly, their thinking ability. Serious researchers have a responsibility to remain grounded, reasonable, and rational regarding potential paranormal evidence.
In the judicial system, there are two standards commonly used to decide cases. The first one is a lesser standard used in civil cases and is known as “the preponderance of the evidence.” This phrase simply means “more likely true than not true.” The second standard is the highest standard used in criminal cases and is known as “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means “no reasonable doubt in the mind of a reasonable person.” These terms are very important because as serious scientific researchers, if “the preponderance of the evidence” suggests that we can explain something as natural “beyond a reasonable doubt,” then we must go with that explanation. Responsible research demands that we do not try to pound the square peg of a natural explanation into a round hole of our own paranormal beliefs. Just because we believe something is paranormal does not make the reality of it so.
When reviewing evidence, many researchers have found great help in Occam’s Razor which states (paraphrased), “In the absence of data, the simplest explanation is likely the correct one.” This doesn’t mean that the simplest explanation is always the correct one; it means that in the absence of further data, it is likely the correct one. Occam’s Razor can also be defined as “parsimony,” a largely scientific term, meaning “preference for the least complex explanation for an observation.” The validity of any evidence stands solely on the credibility of the researcher, and the application of Occam’s Razor as well as parsimony can mean the difference between keeping or losing one’s credibility. And in this field—as in any scientific field—credibility is everything.
With the foregoing in mind, I want to address 15 myths commonly believed in the anomalous research field, predominantly regarding hauntings. I want to point out that the true believers are not limited to the amateur ghost hunting groups, but include individuals who we might consider to be seasoned in the field. I also want to point out that my intent is not to demean these folks, rather, to provoke them to thought and hopefully disturb them to action, namely, to grow and evolve in their thinking. Always think for yourself in the light of grounded reason. Most people in the field who harbor these mythical beliefs do so out of ignorance rather than any intent to defraud.
1. Myth: Some or all orbs are spirits.
Fact: The overwhelming preponderance of evidence beyond a shadow of a doubt shows that orbs are the result of airborne contaminants such as dust or moisture exacerbated by the flash mounted close to the camera lens. Digital SLR cameras greatly reduce the amount of orbs because the flash is further away from the lens. The erroneous belief that orbs are spirits is a product of pop culture and the advent of consumer digital compact cameras. To believe that orbs are spirits is baseless and is a stretch that no serious investigator should want to make. This being said, is it inconceivable that a spirit might manifest as a spherical orb of light? No, anything is possible. However, such a manifestation must have strong proof that it was something other than dust. For example, a bright orb seen visually by multiple witnesses MIGHT be a spirit, but other explanations must first be ruled out including atmospheric anomalies such as ball lightning or geological piezoelectric discharges.(1)
2. Myth: Light Streaks/Energy Rods are spirits.
Fact: Light streaks are caused by a long exposure time combined with camera shake (movement) that can be so minute that you don’t even realize you did it. With digital cameras, most of the picture can be in focus, but an actual or reflected light source shows up as a light streak. This can happen even with jewelry reflecting ambient light or the camera’s flash. Light streaks are common with investigators because they are usually investigating in the dark with their cameras set to auto mode which automatically increases the exposure time. Light streaks are not paranormal. To reduce or eliminate light streaks, always wait a second before you lower the camera after taking a picture and use a tripod or a monopod for stability.
3. Myth: Misty clouds of light primarily in daytime photos are spirits trying to manifest.
Fact: This is almost always due to lens flare or a natural light anomaly and happens when a bright light source is in front of the camera lens but out of the field of view. If your picture shows shadows of objects angled toward the camera, the possibility of lens flare is high.
4. Myth: Mists are spirits trying to manifest.
Fact: While some mists are seemingly unexplainable, most can be explained by cigarette smoke, atmospheric conditions, humidity and dew point, or exhaled breath on a cold night. The likelihood of a spirit trying to manifest is extremely unlikely and rare. In other words, if a mist is a spirit, you will need far more proof than a photo of a mist.
5. Myth: Faces appear in objects, or on walls, etc.
Fact: This is almost always due to pareidolia, a form of apophenia (matrixing), where the mind naturally tries to make order out of disorder. Think of clouds in the sky resembling animals or other common shapes.
6. Myth: Demons and Demonology.
Fact: For much of the Western World, demons are a religious construct originating in early human history, popularized by first century Christianity, and promulgated by religion from the dark ages to the present. While anecdotal evidence suggests that some entities MAY be malevolent, to call them “demons” implies a religious belief in “fallen angels.” Therefore, a belief in demons requires faith. With all due respect to Christian-based paranormal researchers, religion has no place in scientific research because, by definition, religion is faith-based (subjective) and science is fact-based (objective). Regardless of how you look at it, religion and science are ultimately mutually exclusive. The only “demons” we can prove are the ones that exist between the ears. The argument that “exorcisms have been effective in expelling demons therefore demons must exist” does not hold water when you consider that an alleged possession can be explained as the manifestation or response of a mind under prolonged stress or a brain having a physiological disorder. Responsible researchers must exercise extreme caution that they do not adopt superstitious belief systems such as demons simply because it is popular. For these reasons and more, ParaNexus rejects demonology other than for anthropological purposes as a bona fide form of anomalous research.
7. Myth: Ghosts, spirits, and demons can hurt you.
Fact: The only place this is true is on television and in folklore. Ghosts, spirits, and “demons” cannot hurt anyone. Even “those cases” we all hear about where a client or an investigator is attacked are very difficult to prove. These cases are easily subject to over-dramatization and embellishment as they are passed on from person to person placing them within the province of folklore. In the few cases where objects are thrown at people, the most likely explanation is psychokinesis on the part of a human “agent.” For a researcher to say that ghosts, spirits, and demons can be dangerous to humans is irresponsible behavior and promotes fear. Spirits are largely impotent when it comes to affecting physical objects and I am more afraid of the living than the dead any day, for the living can indeed hurt you. I occasionally see websites that talk about the “dangers of ghosts” to investigators and how they need to be careful. This is true; investigators need to be careful about tripping over something in the dark while looking for ghosts.
8. Myth: Ouija Boards are harmful and can open channels whereby demons and other negative spirits can enter and do harm.
Fact: Ouija Boards are nothing but cardboard and plastic. I have personally seen people who are deathly afraid of Ouija Boards, but think nothing of participating in a séance consisting of a table with an upside down drinking glass on top used as a planchette. Ouija Boards are neither good nor bad; they are neither right nor wrong. At best, Ouija Boards are a tool, but for the most part, they are worthless as investigation tools. If this is the case, then how does one explain the seeming bad experiences that people have with Ouija Boards? Easy. They were primed by pop culture and religion to EXPECT something negative to happen. INTENT on the part of the participant determines results. I have seen quite a few websites where the groups have a graphic that boldly declares that they don’t use Ouija Boards during investigations and also that Ouija Boards can be dangerous. This is irresponsible. Where in the world did these groups get the idea that the general public believes that paranormal investigators use Ouija Boards? If these groups are going to boldly announce a prohibition against Ouija Boards, shouldn’t they also boldly declare that they do not use tables with upside down glasses or Native American Shaman or African witchdoctors? The only point of declaring such things on a website is to promote fear, and this, in turn, does harm. (Disclaimer: I am not in love with or advocating the use of Ouija Boards here. In fact, I can’t get the damn things to work. I am simply trying to show the absurdity of belief systems based on superstition and mythology.)
9. Myth: Ghost investigations must be done late at night and in the dark, or at certain times of the night.
Fact: While there may be some logical reasons for investigating at night such as the fact that the world quiets down, investigations can be conducted at any time of day or night, with or without light. Another closely related myth is that certain times of the night hold special significance such as midnight and/or 3:33 am being the “witching hour” and 3 am being “dead time.” The latter is based on the belief that Jesus died at 3 pm so the opposite hour, 3 am, is the time when negative spirits come out to play. Of course, this belief is the result of pop culture, superstition, and television shows and is without merit.
10. Myth: You need a lot of electronic equipment to conduct an investigation.
Fact: You actually do not need any equipment to do an investigation especially considering the fact the 90% of anomalous events can be explained by natural occurrences, misidentification, or client psychology. The most important electronic item to take is a digital audio recorder. The most important tools you can take are your personable people skills, your rational mind, your discernment, and your good judgment.
11. Myth: You must always say a prayer or surround yourself with a circle of light before conducting a haunting investigation.
Fact: These rituals are unnecessary and are the product of fear and a lack of knowledge combined with a prophylactic need for protection against possession or spirit attachment. This having been said, it IS important that researchers approach investigations with the right mindset. This mindset involves openness, mental toughness, reasonableness, groundedness, and the self-confidence that comes from knowing and being comfortable with who you are. If a researcher has a particular method of “getting into the mode” such as prayers or visualization that works for him or her, that is fine. However, as with so many things in life, it is the intent that is important. A researcher who feels he or she needs God’s protection from spirits during an investigation simply shouldn’t be investigating without further training.
12. Myth: You must sage yourself after an investigation to cleanse yourself of spirit attachments otherwise, ghosts, spirits, and negative entities can follow you home.
Fact: I’ve read and heard many a researcher say that they are afraid that a spirit might follow them home from an investigation and such a thing would be bad. My response? Hell, I’m afraid that a spirit WON'T follow me home! That would be the bad thing! If a spirit followed me home, I could do research in the comfort of my own home! As with the previous myth above, the idea that you must sage yourself and/or your home is based on fear and superstition. There is insufficient evidence to conclude that spirits attach themselves to people or things and if it is in fact possible, then it is extremely rare. If you find substantial proof of such a thing, call me because I want to get in on that investigation!
13. Myth: If you cannot readily explain an anomaly in a photo or video, it is likely paranormal in nature.
Fact: An inability to explain a photographic anomaly does not inherently mean that the anomaly is paranormal. Many researchers make the mistake of assuming something is paranormal in nature simply because they captured the photo or video during a paranormal investigation. If a photo or video contains a truly genuine paranormal component, then it does so regardless of whether it was taken during an investigation or not. In other words, if we captured the same type of anomaly during a baseball game in a stadium, would we automatically assume that it was paranormal in nature? Would we assume that it is the ghost of a late baseball player or perhaps an invisible ET? Likely not. Responsible research means not displaying dubious photos and videos as paranormal on websites or in books simply because we cannot readily explain them. It also means not displaying such “evidence” with the sole caption of “Unexplained” because that implies a paranormal conclusion. If you have such a photo, get the opinion and help from other experienced researchers before presenting it to the world. ParaNexus offers a free service for help with evidence analysis.
14. Myth: Millions of people are being abducted by aliens for the nefarious purposes of genetic testing and hybridization with a goal of world domination.
Fact: A 1991 Roper Poll authored by abduction researchers Budd Hopkins and David Jacobs, and sociologist Ron Westrum indicated that 3.7 million Americans (2%) were alien abductees.(2) The interpretation of this poll has been the subject of criticism by various researchers in several disciplines. There are several big problems with the idea that millions of people are being abducted for genetic testing and hybridization from a logistical point of view alone. To explain, let’s assume a conservative figure of only one million abductees. Let’s assume that these abductees are being taken only one time per year. If you do the math, this figures out to 114 people being abducted, tested, and returned every hour of every day, 365 days per year. How many ships and crew would it take to do this? If the aliens are only taking one person at a time, then it would take 114 ships. But let’s assume that they are taking five humans at a time. In this case, they would need 23 ships and crew working 24/7 nonstop year around per one million abductees.
Since the U.S. is not the only country in the world, let’s extrapolate the 3.7 million figure to the entire world. The Roper Poll was meant to represent 185,000,000 people or 73% of the 1991 U.S. population of 252,127,402.(3) Seventy-three percent of the 1991 worldwide population of 5.4 billion(4) would equal 3.96 billion. If we multiply this figure by 2% (the same as the Roper Poll), this would equal 79,200,000 abductees worldwide. If we assume that it takes 23 ships working non-stop to abduct one million people per year, then the aliens would need 1,822 ships working non-stop around the clock, every day of the year worldwide. This means that 9,041 people are being abducted every hour of every day worldwide without a break. If we assume a very conservative number of eight crew members per ship including “doctors” and drones, this would equal 14,576 aliens involved 24 hours per day (not counting off-duty and support personnel). If we assume three eight-hour shifts, then we’re looking at 43,728 crew members.
What kind of infrastructure does it take to support the non-stop operation of 1,822 ships and a skeleton crew of 43,728? Let’s compare the U.S. Navy. At the end of 2008, the U.S. Navy had 283 ships in active service and 331,683 personnel.(5) This averages out to 1,172 personnel per Navy ship. If we extrapolate the same figures to the alien fleet of 1,822 ships, we are looking at a total alien personnel count of 2,135,384 as the infrastructure. And of course there would need to be one or more mother ships to act as a base.
Now let’s run this data past our rational, grounded, thinking minds. Does it make sense that an extraterrestrial force over two million strong with advanced technology would approach world domination by abducting humans over many decades, producing human-looking hybrids, and then placing these hybrids in the human population one-by-one until the entire population was made up of alien-human hybrids? If the Greys have been here for hundreds or even thousands of years as some believe, why did they wait until the mid-Twentieth Century? Or if they have been abducting humans for hundreds or thousands of years, why haven’t they conquered the planet yet? Wouldn’t it be much quicker and easier to simply eradicate most human life on earth, keep a few humans for testing, and then populate the planet at their leisure? I could go on and on about why this hypothesis just doesn’t make rational sense.
This having been said, I do, in fact, believe that SOMETHING is going on with alien abductions. As with other paranormal phenomena, 90% of the abduction stories can be explained in ways that have nothing to do with aliens. This leaves about 10% of the stories that are compelling and difficult to explain. However, I do believe that we are making progress in this area.(6)
15. Myth: Hypnosis should not be used in aiding abductees to recall abduction experiences.
Fact: Many researchers (mostly in the U.K.) frown upon and denounce hypnosis as a useful tool in aiding abductee recall because they say it only leads to false memories. This position is not widely held in the U.S. As a certified and experienced hypnotist, my position is that hypnosis is not a bad thing, but many hypnotists are woefully incompetent due to a lack of good sense and training and should not be conducting abductee regressions. Conducting an effective hypnosis session is comprised of 5% the ability to put someone into trance and 95% knowing what to say and how to prevent your own beliefs from interfering with the subject’s beliefs and creating subsequent false memories. The absolute biggest mistake that many hypnotists make—including big names in abduction research—is to ask leading questions. This is an absolute no-no. A hypnotist should never introduce language in the session that has not already been stated by the subject. The second biggest mistake hypnotists and subjects make is an inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. A competent hypnotist will develop cross tests to further aid in distinguishing fantasy from reality.
Hypnosis is a natural function of the human mind and we all experience it many times a day (remember missing that exit on the highway because you were deep in thought?). As with any other subjective tool, hypnosis can be used to shed a greater light on an otherwise vague picture, but only in the hands of a competent, trained, and objective hypnotist not given to true believer syndrome or a personal agenda.
Again, serious anomalous researchers have a duty to the public and to the field to conduct and report research in a responsible manner. Being responsible means being open-minded, yet not credulous. It means educating yourself, thinking for yourself, and striving to arrive at rational and reasonable conclusions that are supported by the evidence. Responsibility means acting in an ethical and honest manner, not ignoring data that might lead you to an opposite conclusion than your favorite theory. It means a willingness to change your perspective if warranted.
Responsibility also means examining your research motives. For example, do you conduct research more to prove a favorite hypothesis or to discover the truth of the matter? There is nothing wrong with testing a hypothesis for validity provided that you give equal consideration to all valid data, not just the part that supports your hypothesis.
Ponder the points above as you go about your anomalous research remembering that your reputation and credibility as a researcher is at stake. Remain open-minded and don’t be too quick to draw a paranormal conclusion. Base your conclusions on solid evidence, not wishful thinking. What is, is; and we should never have to go out on a limb to prove reality.
(1) For a detailed explanation of why orbs are not spirits, see the ParaNexus Paranormal Investigator Certification Course (CPI) available atwww.paranexusacademy.org.
(2 ) http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/Articles/SI98.html. You may also be interested in the results of a Sci-Fi Channel/Roper Poll conducted in 2002, http://www.ufoevidence.org/documents/doc989.htm
(4) Washington, D.C., Bureau of the Census, 1991 Dec. , 49,  p. (WP/91), http://www.popline.org/docs/0953/072793.html